NORTHWEST LARGE HEATHS

Large Heath ssp polydama, Bowland Fells SSSI

THE LARGE HEATH BUTTERFLY IS ONE OF THE SPECIAL SPECIES WE ARE LUCKY TO HAVE IN LANCASHIRE. Not only that but we also have two subspecies of it, davus at a lowland raised bog, Winmarleigh Moss and an extensive colony (or colonies) of the form polydama on the Bowland Fells. They are both flying at the moment and I was happy to put my boots on, pick up my macro lens and head to the bogs. Large Heaths have a weak but lively flight over their Hare's Tail Cottongrass foodplant habitat, like a puppet on a string skipping over tussocks. I followed them for hours, waiting for one to land in a photogenic situation. During my time following the polydama insects on the fells I was privileged to have a glimpse into their private world. The recently-emerged female of a mating pair crawled into a grass tussock to recover once the male had gone on his way. There was hardly any Cross-leaved Heath in flower and I am not sure what, if anything, the males were nectaring on but there was plenty of their larva's food plant here. Curlews called nearby, a small flock of post-breeding lapwings were also here and I disturbed a pair of Red Grouse, which promptly flew off, shame, they should have chicks by now.

Large Heath ssp polydama, Bowland Fells SSSI

In the afternoon I visited a couple of lowland raised bog sites in South Cumbria, with strong Large Heath colonies of the ssp davus and was struck by how dark they looked in flight compared to the pale orange polydama, not to mention the bold black spots on the underside. A great day out also included some chance birds, such as my first Red KItes in East Lancashire, ospreys, Tree Pipits and Common Redstarts as well as a profusion of dragonflies, particularly Four-spotted Chasers.

A Large Heath ssp davus dices with death in a spider's web, fortunately spider went hungry this time

Large Heath ssp davus, Foulshaw Moss CWT Reserve

Four-spotted Chaser, Foulshaw Moss